Pilot archery program at Lakeview seeks to reintroduce students to the great outdoors

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) work with teachers during a NASP training session in Bolton.

M’CHIGEENG—Lakeview School in M’Chigeeng First Nation is one of 13 schools in Ontario to introduce the National Archery Schools Program (NASP) pilot project as part of its in-school, phys-ed curriculum in partnership with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) this fall.

“The OFAH will lead Ontario’s first NASP program, starting with a NASP teacher certification program this summer and 13 pilot schools this fall,” explained Galen Eagle, OFAH manager of communications. “The idea to introduce the program came from its success in Kentucky. In 2001 the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife was in crisis with a significant loss of anglers and hunters. Their solution was to reach out to the youth and they introduced NASP, which had an immediate impact. It has also had great success in Saskatchewan since it was introduced several years ago—they now have the program in more then 200 schools. We are hoping for similar gains.”

Since the introduction of NASP in Kentucky in 2001, it has blossomed, reaching nearly 12.5 million youth annually in 12,000 schools in 10 different countries.

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“We believe this exciting curriculum-linked, in-school archery program has the potential to spread across the province, enabling thousands of Ontario youth to benefit from the knowledge, skills and character building archery presents,” Angelo Lombardo, OFAH executive director, said in a press release. “Through this program, the OFAH will be embarking on its largest youth-education program in its 86 year history.”

“Archery is an accessible sport that allows youth of all ages and athletic ability to participate,” explained Tim Watts, OFAH NASP program coordinator, archery instructor and seven-time Canadian archery champion. “Archery requires an understanding of kinetics and mathematics and complements many other subjects already taught in schools. It’s a sport that builds self-confidence and focus.”

Lakeview students will learn on a Genesis bow.
Lakeview students will learn on a Genesis bow.

“I was reading the Ontario Out of Doors magazine when I saw that the OFAH was seeking pilot schools for the program,” Lakeview School Principal Neil Debassige told The Expositor. “I had explored getting the program into the school before so I contacted Tim Watts (OFAH NASP program coordinator) and I wrote a letter of interest.”

After Lakeview was selected for the pilot program, Mr. Debassige and his wife, fellow Lakeview educator Diane Debassige, completed the training for NASP, allowing them to not only teach the program to students at Lakeview School but also train other Manitoulin teachers.

“We had our first day on Friday with Grade 7 and 8 students and it went really well,” said Mr. Debassige. “They loved it. The program is so great because it’s not about strength, the equipment (a Genesis bow) is universal to all its participants regardless of the height or weight of the student.”

Though Lakeview has started the program with its Grade 7 and 8 students, Mr. Debassige said he hopes to expand the program all the way down to the school’s Grade 4 class (NASP is designed for Grades 4-12).

“Archery not only has First Nation significance, but it’s easy to create success with all students,” continued Mr. Debassige. “We hope that it has spin off effects for students in terms of concentration and confidence. At one point Manitoulin was known for winning archery annually at OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations). I hope this program helps bring that success back and I want youth Island-wide to be a part of this great program.”